Bread has been around for millennia and as such, grains that we once used have become slightly obsolete, forgotten or even replaced by different (possibly less expensive) grains and white flour to satisfy the needs of the masses. As ancient breads were baked by means of a wood-fire and often in a wood-frired oven, the Fornetto makes for the perfect appliance to recreate bread in the same way they did thousands of years ago.
That being said, biological bakers around the world are bringing back ancient types of grains to the market. With an ever growing population of people wanting to eat healthier and with the large number of coeliac disease (gluten intolerance) sufferers, these breads are becoming a hit! Many of the ancient and genetically untouched grains of yesteryear are gluten free or are much lower in gluten content than wheat flour and because they have not been altered genetically, in the manner that wheat has, the gluten found in these grains often causes coeliac sufferers no ill effects. Because they are whole grains as well, they are far richer in essential vitamins and minerals than plain white flour.
Because I’m always looking for creative ways to use the Fornetto, I was recently part of an ancient bread making class at one of the BARCELONAREYKYAVIK bio-bakeries located in the old-town in Barcelona. Not only was the technique to making bread with these different flours very interesting to learn but the bread was delicious! Bear in mind that many of these grains and flours are not available on most grocers shelves so if you’d like to make them, plan a trip to your local health food store!
BARCELONAREYKJAVIK is one of Barcelona’s premier bio-bakeries and after having learnt some of their techniques I can now pass them onto you. It’s no small wonder why they’re as popular as they are!
We began the class by being separated into groups of two and weighing out all the ingredients. My team member and I had the task of weighing out the yeasty pre-fermented mixture of flour, water and yeast known as a starter, “levain”, chief or head.
The starter is allowed to ferment for abut 24 hours before using it. The purpose of the starter is not only for the flavour (you may be more familiar with the term Sourdough) but it also allows the fresh flour to combine with the fermented mixture which creates a lighter bread. If you were to use only the Khorasan wheat (Kamut) and the spelt we used here without the starter, the bread would be extremely dense and heavy. Because there is a very low level of gluten present in these grains, the elasticity and airiness normally present in white bread is virtually non-existent so the fermentation prior to baking helps keep the bread somewhat lighter and adds a delicious flavour.
Everything was measured out such as the starter, the water, the salt, the fresh yeast, and the flour and got mixed together in a bucket using our hands. No rhyme, no reason but it worked perfectly!
When we had a nice and homogenous mixture, it was kneaded for about 5 minutes, rolled into a ball and allowed to rest, covered.
Once it rose for an hour, the result was a perfectly smooth and non-tacky dough.
During the rising process, the following “folding” technique was repeated 3 times, every 20 minutes. It began by being flattened out into a circle…
…folded in at one end…
…folded over from the opposite end…
…folded in from both sides…
…and turned into a perfect little package. As I mentioned, this happened three times during the 1 hour rising period.
Once it had completed rising, we weighed out the dough and separated it into two pieces; one large piece (1100 g – 2.45lbs) for the loaf and one smaller (570 g – 1.25lbs) for the foccacias.
The larger piece was rolled out into a long baguette shape and placed in the basket next to it and allowed to rise for a last time, about a half an hour.
Here the dough is rising before baking in baskets which give the loaves a really nice pattern and in loaf pans which gives the bread a more traditional loaf shape.
After having risen for the last time, the bread was turned out of the baskets onto a bread peel ready to be placed in the oven. The oven was set to 235C (455F), which is easy to get to in the Fornetto I might add, and it was humidity controlled. The master baker we were working with, David, recommended that a dish of water be placed in any oven and preheated at the same time to ensure a humid environment for the baking bread. The bread baked between 40 and 45 minutes.
Using a digital thermometer, you can check if the bread is done. The internal temperature should read between 94C (200F) and 97C (208F).
And this was the end result!
A beautifully golden, crispy-crust, dense bread that is much heavier than a regular white bread. It’s very similar in texture in fact to a rye or pumpernickel bread and just as rich in flavour.
For the foccacias, starting off in small loaf pans, we began by using a fair amount of olive oil and added in the remaining dough.
Once the dough was in the pan, it was further doused with a good helping of extra virgin olive oil.
We then removed it from the pan and kneaded it until the oil was distributed throughout the whole mass of dough.
It was then returned to the bread pan, and poked with our fingers, creating dimples thoughout the surface.
Then, it was dressed with another light drizzling of olive oil, corse salt and oregano.
We then removed the foccacias from the bread pans and placed them on parchment paper to bake. For my second one, I loaded it full of mozzarella and garlic powder.
The results were two absolutely scrumptious foccacias that were ideal when sliced in half and loaded full of Italian cured meats, grilled vegetables and strong cheese!
So that was on the Saturday………..on the Sunday, we stepped it up a notch and tried spelt and whole grain rice flour. The technique was the same and the results speak for themselves.
Spelt and whole grain rice bread created a slightly lighter and airier bread than the kamut/spelt mix and has a slightly milder, more nutty flavour!
Having separated the bread in the same way we did the day before, we had enough dough to create a Catalan coca using seasonal vegetables like zucchini, bell peppers, sweet onions and lots of oregano, olive oil and coarse salt!
And as an extra treat, we got to make a rye, spelt and seed loaf that was loaded full of pumpkin, sunflower, sesame seeds and rolled oats.
Absolutely delicious when toasted-up for breakfast!
Stay tuned…..Recipes for all three breads to follow this week!
You’re in for a treat. Enjoy!